Wrestlers get IOA support

Vinayak Padmadeo

New Delhi, May 3

The protesting wrestlers were relatively at ease on Wednesday. Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president PT Usha finally came and spent time with the wrestlers, assuring them all the support from the national body.

The gesture from the sprint queen pacified Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat, who had criticised Usha for suggesting that the protest was akin to indiscipline. Even on Tuesday, the wrestlers had targeted the Rajya Sabha MP by saying that she is a politician now.

However, Wednesday was a day to forgive and forget. “PT Usha madam has extended her support to us. She also clarified that her earlier statements were misinterpreted. She is a sporting legend and we respect her. Better late than never,” Bajrang said.

During her brief stay, Usha told the wrestlers to go back to training as their careers were on the line and offered to mediate between them and the government. However, the wrestlers declined her offer, saying that they are ready to talk but only at the protest site.

“She told us ‘you are athletes and your place is in the training hall, not here’. She wants to see us compete and win medals and said she was disappointed that we are sitting here,” Vinesh said.

“Whoever comes here will be respected. We are glad that she came and supported us. We asked her to run the federation and conduct the Nationals and other competitions away from Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh’s shadow. She is also a Rajya Sabha MP so we asked her if she can raise our voice in the Parliament,” she added.

The visit turned ugly when Usha was leaving the Jantar Mantar venue as a lady from the women’s wing of the Bhartiya Kisan Union heckled her for her previous comments about the wrestlers. “You have insulted our wrestlers,” she shouted at Usha, who had to rush out of the venue amidst the fracas.

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